James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
Boutique blu ray and indie film distributor Kino Lorber recently released a hefty crop of films from Clint Eastwood that range from low-key westerns to early directional efforts and one movie I personally haven’t heard of until this release was announced. Part of the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line, these films from the early to mid-1970s chronicle his rise to Hollywood icon status after starring in Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns dissecting his relationship with masculinity.
All six movies are worth owning for the sake of collecting with retro artwork, slipcovers, and a heaping helping of special features, including interviews, video essays, and historical documentaries. This week we’ll cover JOE KIDD, THE BEGUILED, and Eastwood’s directorial debut PLAY MISTY FOR ME. They are a must-own for film fanatics; all are worth owning, so the Rent or Buy portion will be omitted this week.
Don Siegel and Eastwood worked together five times as director and actor respectively, and their strangest outing was the erotic Civil War thriller from 1971 THE BEGUILED. Led by three peculiar performances from Eastwood, the astounding Geraldine Page, and Elizabeth Hartman, this is the type of transgressive war story that you won’t soon forget.
Yankee soldier John McBurney (Eastwood), finds himself seriously injured forced into the care of Martha Farnsworth (Page) and six young women at a Southern Seminary school. Some of the women are more experienced than others, and McB (as he prefers to be called) is keen to be pumped full of whiskey and laudanum with a side of physical attention until he’s back on his feet. The feverish tale is intensely problematic by today’s standards, having Eastwood openly saying that 12 years of age is “old enough for kissing” in the opening minutes. The sexual chemistry that permeates the air pollutes the minds of the six women inside the school, and the wounded soldier who’s masculinity lies in the hands of Ms. Farnsworth and her harem of young women.
THE BEGUILED is an excellent film and surprisingly weird in the ways that provoke thought about sexual repression and the mental effects of war on the front lines and those shielded from society. Eastwood and Page’s are confident as they jockey for power. At the same time, Elizabeth Hartman’s borderline disturbing innocence and Jo Anne Harris’ enigmatic sexual experience are juxtaposed to make a wonderfully peculiar piece of 70s cinema.
Brand New 2K Master | NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Kat Ellinger | The Beguiled, Misty, Don and Clint – Featurette | TRAILERS FROM HELL with John Landis | Theatrical Trailer | Dual-Layered BD50 Disc | Optional English Subtitles
Seemingly minor and incidentally a bit timeless, the John Sturges (THE GREAT ESCAPE) film JOE KIDD was released in 1972 fits nicely as a Saturday matinee. With a memorable cast including Robert Duvall coming off THE GODFATHER and recently departed John Saxon in supporting roles that challenge the nature of finding morality in the Old West. Scripted by Elmore Leonard, this breezy open-air Western finds a formidable punch against masculinity by questioning the need for power while being supremely entertaining and never straying from Eastwood’s clinched-jaw aesthetic.
Eastwood plays the titular Joe Kidd, who’s getting a 10-day lockup for shooting a mule deer on someone’s property. Now, if you know anything about good ol’ Southern justice, that’ll get you an ass full of buckshot typically, so Kidd is happy to serve his sentence out quietly. He’s bailed out by one of a kind hotshot and land developer Frank Harlan (Duvall), to hunt down a group of Mexican revolutionaries led by Luis Chama (Saxon). Kidd, with a $1,000 offer from Harlan, has to dig deep, chug a couple of cold ones and figure out where his allegiance lies.
Eastwood was coming off of DIRTY HARRY with his buddy Don Siegel and pivoted back into an authentic western form that lacked romance and gave him major lone-wolf vibes with a carefree attitude and hidden moral compass. In other words, he’s the perfect American anti-hero, and instead of money or power, he’s slyly a philosophical assassin hellbent on making things right. JOE KIDD gave Eastwood the quiet conviction that challenged his male audience to choose what’s the right thing to do for the greater good. It’s the kind of man in the mirrored complex that makes Eastwood so relatable and enigmatic with a larger than life persona. JOE KIDD is a gorgeous film to look at with an inspired take on Mexico/USA relations, although it does come off a reasonably minor in with Sturges and Eastwood’s filmography, the film that furthers the myth of rebels with a cause.
Blu-ray Extras Include:
- Brand New 2K Master
- NEW Audio Commentary by Alex Cox
- NEW Audio Interview with Actor Don Stroud
- Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
- Image Gallery
- Optional English Subtitles
PLAY MISTY FOR ME
In 1971 Clint Eastwood took on his directorial debut for Universal with the psychological thriller PLAY MISTY FOR ME. This oversized studio affair still stands out for an outlier in his career. It is more of an art film disguised as a crowd-pleaser, and somehow Eastwood student who observed his collaborators Don Siegel and Sergio Leone managed to achieve both and showed significant promise as a filmmaker in his own right.
Eastwood plays a Northern California disc jockey named Dave Garver, who works the late shift at a jazzy radio station. He adopts a smooth and sensitive persona that spouts poetry to his listeners. He’s a man about town and gets easily sucked into any attention from an eligible woman.
Dave is a fly in the trap of his dedicated listener Evelyn —a fantastic screen debut from Jessica Walter, yes from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT— as a lovely suitor who woos Dave back to her digs for some hanky panky. The morning after proves to show Dave’s true intentions and heads out to pine after his on-again, off-again girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills), both hopelessly obsessed become lost in love, and the only way out is probably murder.
Keep in mind this erotic thriller is before FATAL ATTRACTION, BASIC INSTINCT, and all those salacious movies trending in the late 80s, early 90s. PLAY MISTY FOR ME captures a man who is on an island of his own, a time where the age of using free love as an excuse to be dirtbag lothario. PLAY MISTY FOR ME is a cautionary tale for those who casually choose their lovers; it’s a screeching shock to the system
Grade: B+Bonus Features:
Brand New 2K Master | NEW Audio Commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas | NEW Interview with Co-Star Donna Mills | NEW Video Essay by Film Historian Howard S. Berger | Play It Again… A Look Back at “Play Misty For Me” – Documentary | The Beguiled, Misty, Don and Clint – Featurette | TRAILERS FROM HELL with Adam Rifkin | Theatrical Teaser in HD | Theatrical Trailer in HD | Two TV Spots | Stills Montage | Clint Eastwood Directs and Acts: Photo Montage | The Evolution of a Poster | Reversible Art | Limited Edition Slipcase | Dual-Layered BD50 Disc | Optional English Subtitles
All of the films discussed here are available now via Kino Lorber and major online retailers.